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Meeting - Toy Cameras and Alternative Photography - Dec 13, 2017 - PID

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Susan Hacker Stang is an American photographer, author, and educator.

Stang served on the faculty of communications at Webster University in St. Louis from 1974 through 2015 and now holds the title Professor Emeritus. She helped found and build the respected photography program there, heading it for most of her tenure at the university. Her work has been collected by more than 25 major museums and libraries around the world and appears in half a dozen books and numerous magazines. Much of her photography involves the innovative use of alternative cameras, formats, techniques, and media, as evidenced by her two books Encountering Florence (featuring subtly surreal black and white prints of the Italian city using 8 x 10 Polaroid emulsion transfers) and Kodachrome – End of the Run: Photographs from the Final Batches (which chronicles a six-month university photography project in which students and staff would shoot more than 100 roles of rare Kodachrome film for processing on the historic last day of operations by the world's last remaining Kodachrome processing lab.) In 2016, she published a hard cover limited edition book of photographs, reAPPEARANCES, which is a sequence of fifty-two photographs made with a digital toy camera (the JOCO VX5). The volume purports to take the viewer on a visual journey through the uncanny coherence of the look of the world, according to Stang's introductory essay.

Stang majored in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she earned both a BFA (1971) and MFA (1974), and studied under famed photographers Harry Callahan (recognized as an innovator in modern photography and winner of the National Medal of the Arts) and Aaron Siskind (the respected abstract expressionist photographer). In 1971 she moved to London where she worked as a photographer for the cutting-edge British fashion magazine NOVA (published 1965–1975). She joined the faculty of Webster University in St. Louis in 1974, where she helped found and build the photographic studies program in the School of Communications. In Jerusalem in 1979 she was Artist-In-Residence at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. In recent years, in addition to her work as head of the Webster University photography program and professor of communications, she has taught summer photography workshops in Florence, Italy, both at the Santa Reparata International School of Art (SRISA) and The Darkroom. She taught at Webster for 41 years and earned, among other honors, the Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Images of Florence: Stang's photography characteristically employs alternative cameras (such as the Olympus Pen-FT half-frame camera, the Kodak Brownie, and the Holga), or alternative formats (such as Polaroid emulsion transfers) and techniques. Her book of Polaroid emulsion transfers, Encountering Florence was published simultaneously in the U.S. and in Italy (under the title Firenze un Incontro in 2007. Stang's use of the emulsion transfer process involves transferring the fragile, fabric-like emulsion layer of the photograph (bearing the image) to another surface, subtly transforming the original image in a variety of ways. The results were described in Photo Review as giving Stang's portraits of Florence's buildings, streets, statuary, and gardens "a delicate, draping quality ... reminiscent of the fabrics draped on the ancient statues within the images". An Italian reviewer observed that the photographic process presents "a city not previously seen and perhaps a little disquieting". The book's bi-lingual text in English and Italian was selected and edited by Stang and by Andrea Burzi and Susanna Sarti, both of Florence, to present accompanying word-portraits from well-known authors in their own encounters with the city. A portfolio of Stang's work for the book is held by the Rare Books Collection of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Firenze.

On Kodachrome's Last Day: In 2010–11, Stang led the Webster University photography program in a six-month-long exploration and celebration of the color reproduction qualities of Kodachrome film (long revered by professional and amateur photographer for its true, lush color rendition qualities) to mark the permanent discontinuing of the film's production by Kodak. The project ultimately turned into a book documenting the final demise of the medium, and the last day of Kodachrome production anywhere in the world (at Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas, on January 18, 2011). The last days of processing were covered by The New York TimesNational Geographic, and network television. Edited by Stang and fellow photographer Bill Barrett, Kodachrome: End of the Run presents a selection of four-score Kodachrome images shot on more than 100 carefully hoarded roles of the film by Webster University students, faculty, and staff over a five-month period and processed by Dwayne's in the final hours as the last processing chemicals ran out. The book includes special essays by Stang, famed Time Magazine worldwide pictures editor Arnold Drapkin, and Dwayne's Photo vice president Grant Steinle. The entire collaboration is described in detail in Stang's essay.

Other Work: Stang's work is also found in museums and library special collections, including the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the California Museum of Photography, Riverside; the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Southeast Museum of Photography; and the Portland Museum of Art. Over the years, her photographs have been published in a number of books and magazines, including Exploring Color Photography, second edition (1993), Jerusalem As She Is (1991), The Visionary Pinhole (1985), Between Twelve and Twenty(1982), Creative Camera International Yearbook (1977), and Women See Woman (1976), Hatzilum Magazine, Israel (July 1979), the British Journal of Photography, London (April 1972), and NOVA (1971–1972 issues).

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